Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pills, not pillows

A little non-sequiter from my Lord's prayer posts because Beve and I spent 24 hours out on the Olympic Pennisula in the retirement home with his dad and step-mom.  And let me tell you, an excursion to the land of walkers is nothing if not full of non-sequiters!  See, Grampie's wife lay down for a nap last Monday, and when she woke up, she was in a different world, one in which she barely recognized the three room apartment they've lived in for over three years, couldn't summon the names of her grandchildren, nor even find the words for simple concepts.  To say the least, this unexpected turn in her brain scared her husband, not to mention herself.

It was a TIA, whatever that means--kind of like a miniature stroke, from what I can glean--or maybe more than one.  So Beve and I drove out there, to lend a hand, get a real feel for the situation for the rest of the family (her daughter lives all the way across the country, so I was her eyes today!).

And this is what we found:  my lovely mother-in-law speaks more deliberately, has long pauses between words, and...knows she isn't herself. That's the hard part for me--that she knows and is trying so hard to get back to where she was.  But something's skipping in her head, like a record with a scratch in it.  For example, last night I told her I wanted to check her pills, to make sure she was taking what the doctor had prescribed (her daughter asked me to do this--I wasn't just trying to be nosy).  Thyrza looked at me quizzically, then smiled and nodded.  She carefully led me into her bedroom, where she pulled back the covers on her bed, and said, "This is the one I sleep on, and I use this one with it, when I read."  She was holding up her pillows.  "Oh Thryza," I said, "Pills, not pillows!" 

Meanwhile, Grampie was sleeping in his chair, then awakening in a start to grab his cane and walk out of his apartment--off on some errand without explaining to anyone.  "Where did he go?" Beve asked Thyrza. She simply shrugged.  Off on some non-sequiter.

This morning, Beve took Grampie to run some important errands--take a list of Christmas decorations to their storage, stop at the bank, put gas in our car, and go to Grampie's favorite store:  STAPLES.  Last summer, when Grampie was here for a week, he was overwrought for days because we don't have a STAPLES anywhere in our county.  He can barely get through a week without needing to put his 25 cents in the slot and ride the bus out to the store where everybody knows his name.  There are always sales going on, you know.  Today he brought me a plastic container shaped like a Beagle that is full of paper clips, push pins and rubber bands--he bought it for a quarter!  I'm telling you, I don't know how I lived without this plastic puppy holding office supplies!  And, of course, they had to make a few copies.  Of some clipping, old picture, his own indecipherable handwriting.  Last week, he told Beve, he'd made 18 copies of a picture of Thyrza and himself.  "Best thing I ever did," he said.  As Beve put it, "Give Grampie a copy machine, and he's set for life!"

Meanwhile, I was trying to get Thyrza to eat breakfast and work through her pill (I mean meds) situation.  Turns out she'd taken the morning pills last night (maybe I confused her...), and had completely missed the two meds just prescribed after this event.  By the time Grampie and Beve got back, I'd talked to the pharmicist twice, the answering service for the doctor, the doctor herself, as well as Thyrza's daughter...and we were looking for the pill cutter. Grampie claimed it was in a certain drawer, and kept shuffling through it--over and over and over.  No wonder it takes so long to find anything.  "Maybe it's out in the front room," I suggested. "No, it's in this drawer." About 30 seconds later, Beve found it--out in the front room. 

By the time we left (after taking them out for lunch), we were all exhausted.  We'd taken pictures (always the most important part of a visit for Grampie), worked through some organizational options (which they might forget!), and I left a lengthy list about meds, the doctor, etc.  It was hard to leave them, knowing that a week ago, Thyrza was the care-taker in their relationship, making up for Grampie's memory-gaps.  Just a week, later, he's the one with the sharper memory.  As Beve said, "That's a scary thought."

This may not be the last quick trip over there this spring.  It's what we do.  It's loving our parents.  When I was a young parent, and my parents helped us out, I used to ask, "How will we ever repay you?"  My dad's answer was, "Take care of your kids."  But now I know how we repay our  parents for all they've done and are to us--by actually taking care of them.  Parenting our parents--it's a weird thing, but we all get there.  And it's a ministry I wouldn't miss for anything.

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